American Idol is Back and "The Cinderella Story is Still Alive"
ABC, Sunday, March 11, 8:00 PM ET
By Kellie Freeze
Nearly two years after American Idol ended its 15-season run on FOX, the reality singing competition returns Sunday on ABC with a new judges’ panel and a fresh bounty of talent hoping for their chance at stardom. While its home is on a new network, much of the series has remained the same, including the show’s format, many of its producers and its Emmy-winning host, Ryan Seacrest.
“Ryan has been there right from the beginning,” says executive producer and showrunner Trish Kinane. “It wouldn’t be the same without him.” Another element that American Idol has kept alive is its nationwide talent search. This season, the show visits 23 cities in search of America’s next superstar, and early episodes are dedicated to the cross-country auditions.
And to judge the undiscovered talent, the series has drafted three forces in the music industry: country star Luke Bryan, pop queen Katy Perry and Motown legend Lionel Richie. Richie has visited American Idol before, and explains the difference between being a judge and appearing as a guest judge and mentor.
“It’s more committed, I’ll tell you that for a fact. Before, you stop in, you give your advice, and then you leave,” he explains. “Before, I mentored, but I didn’t know the contestant’s backstory. The part I like about this show is they have a life story that leads them to why they are there.”
All three judges stress a desire to discover and launch a career into the stratosphere.
“We’re here to really find a star,” says Perry, sharing one reason she’s eager to serve as a judge was because of her own struggles to find success in the music industry. She calls it “a real ‘pay it forward’ moment.” Bryan, an admitted American Idol mega-fan, shares, “When they start singing and they are moving me emotionally, I get wrapped up in the moment. I get wrapped up in the pageantry and the dreams coming true.”
“The Cinderella story is still alive,” assures executive producer Megan Michaels Wolflick, who has been with the series since its early seasons. “You think about Carrie Underwood with the pink shirt and the jeans walking into the room. That’s where we start. At the bottom. You walk in in your street clothes. You’re not glammed up with hair and makeup. This is who you are. And then the viewer gets to watch as you evolve into the Cinderella at the end. … And that’s the magical part of the show, and it’s still very much alive.”
One of the biggest additions to American Idol has been the support of ABC’s parent company, The Walt Disney Company.
“We’ve had BB-8 from Star Wars auditioning for us,” laughs Kinane. “And we’re gonna do a Disney night of Disney songs with Disney stars, as well as our contestants. And we’ve never been able to do it before.”
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